From New Jersey to St. Petersburg: American Russia Observations
My family name is Robbie, but in Russia it sounds like rabbi, which confuses people. So I just use
Rob MacDonald. I grew up in Maplewood NJ, but my later years I lived in the Flemington NJ area.
Since June 2000 we have lived in St Petersburg Russia.
1. Why did you move abroad?
We were married just a year when an over zealous INS made living in the United States untenable.
2. How do you make a living?
When our SAS plane took off from Newark I retired.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I have no home in the US. Time moves on, and I just have a grown daughter in Flemington and an older sister in Savannah. We email, use Facebook, but they don't want to Skype.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Russia?
I have an ideal wife who is a top cook. I love her and the food she cooks. Russian cuisine is tops!
5. What's the worst thing about being an expat in Russia?
In America, I was known as a well-educated intelligent man with a knack for using English well.
Here our roles are reversed... I am viewed as a language bumbler, not very smart when communicating in Russian.
6. What do you miss most?
I miss casual friendliness even among strangers. People call you by name in favorite little cafes. I miss the climate, the mountains, and the Atlantic seashore. I miss a spirit of helpfulness for even the people you don't know, that is missing in Russia.
7. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
They are phobic about feet. Best to keep both feet on the floor when talking with Russians. Never show the soles of your feet, even with socks on.
Russians like to crowd around small tables and talk for hours, putting away a large number of full shots of vodka, which gives them a good reason for their many toasts.
They are formal with strangers. They think you must be crazy to smile at or around people you don't know. The recent Secretaries of State sent a bad message when they beamed while at Russian receptions.
8. What is a myth about your adopted country?
It's an erroneous myth that they are a warlike threatening people. Actually Russians are less likely to attack or fight people on the street than Americans, and they deeply appreciate how awful war is.
9. What advice would you give other expats?
A friend told me before I left, 'Bob, don't give up your base.' He thought I should keep my office on standby and not burn my bridges right away.
My advice is to have a fall-back position. I wish I had purchased a trailer on a small piece of Florida land before I first left.
Be aware you probably have no US health coverage after a few months abroad. I have been careful to protect my few assets while in Russia. We get cash using our Visa cards connected with United States banks at bank machines now available in many cities here.
10. When and why did you start your blog?
I was frustrated that I knew few expats after many years here, so I enrolled with Contactexpat
and saw they had a small blogging platform. I started blogging in November 2008 with ContactExpats. In February 2009 I switched to Blogger.
Blogging about Russia has made me much more positive about living here, has given me a great hobby, and has made me more happy.
Rob's blog, American Russia Observations
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